What We're Watching: George Floyd murder trial gets underway, Myanmar military's brutal crackdown, terror siege in Mozambique
George Floyd murder trial: Ten months after George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, died under the knee of a white police officer on a Minneapolis street corner, the murder trial of that officer, Derek Chauvin, has finally kicked off . Chauvin is facing three charges including second- and third-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter. The footage of Chauvin pressing his knee against Floyd's neck — and Floyd's cry of "I can't breathe" — galvanized anti-racism protests, some of which turned violent, across the United States last summer. And around the world, people in countries as varied as the Netherlands, Israel, Australia, Japan, France, Portugal, and Brazil also rose up to confront racial injustice within their own societies. Within the US, Floyd's killing has sparked a new movement pushing for more police accountability, as well as broader criminal justice reform. But it also inflamed political tensions, with many right-leaning Americans pushing back, contending that police are forced to confront dangerous situations and should be given more leeway to conduct their duties in defense of public order. Whatever happens in the Floyd trial, which is likely to take months, the outcome will surely inflame tensions and create a new wave of unrest in a very divided US — and perhaps even abroad.
Military crackdown intensifies in Myanmar: As pro-democracy protesters show no signs of backing down, Myanmar's generals have struck back with lethal force to disperse the crowds. Over the weekend the military junta launched airstrikes on ethnic groups near the Thai border, leading to 100 deaths on Saturday alone, the highest daily toll since the crisis began nine weeks ago. The military cracked down again the following day, opening fire at a funeral procession outside Yangon for a 20-year-old killed in clashes the previous day. The death toll since the military seized power on February 1 now stands at 459, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, though the true toll is thought to be higher. The Biden administration, meanwhile, says it is working on a "plan" to address the situation as fears of a possible civil war in Myanmar grow. But details are scarce, and so far, the economic sanctions that Washington has imposed on the junta appear to have had little effect.
Mozambique insurgency escalates: Dozens of people, including at least seven foreigners, were killed over the weekend when local jihadists laid siege to a town in northern Mozambique that serves as the base for a massive offshore natural gas development. For more than three years now, fighters belonging to the "Al-Shabaab" militant group have been waging a brutal insurgency in the surrounding Cabo Delgado province that has killed thousands and displaced close to 700,000 people. Although the fighters claim loose ties to the Islamic State — and have adopted familiar ISIS tactics of beheadings, kidnappings, and ruthless destruction of schools and hospitals — domestic economic grievances appear to play a big role: Cabo Delgado is one of the poorest regions of Mozambique, and many locals don't feel they are set to benefit from the recent discovery of massive natural gas reserves there. Given the natural gas stakes, the area is crawling with foreign mercenary groups hired to protect energy company workers. The US recently announced that its special forces would work with Mozambican troops to quash the insurgency. Given this weekend's brazen attack, the militants don't appear to be overly concerned about Uncle Sam just yet.